Sunday, July 19, 2015

Opposition to gold mining runs deep in El Salvador

A recent poll by the University of Central America shows that three fourths of Salvadorans in affected areas are opposed to the resumption of mining of gold and other metals in their country.   There has been a moratorium on granting permits for such mining since the mid-2000s under the Tony Saca ARENA administration and continuing under the subsequent FMLN governments.

From the bulletin describing the poll results:

Consistent with the majority of people who think that the country is not appropriate for this activity, 76% of those polled expressed disagreement with the opening of mining projects in their municipality. Only 19.8% expressed agreement and 4.2% either did not respond or expressed indecision. 
According to the respondents,this broad based rejection of metallic mining is associated, in large part, with the negative impact that metallic mining would have on the environment and on natural resources.Of those consulted, 89.9% expressed the view that mining would have grave effects in terms of water contamination, 85.1% expressed the same view with regards to air contamination; 88.3% consider that mining would have a grave impact on the destruction of forests and green areas, 88% consider that metallic mining would affect the life of wild animals and 79.1% believe that mining would deteriorate the scenery.
Currently an international arbitration lawsuit is pending against the government of El Salvador, brought by Ocean Gold (formerly Pac-Rim) which alleges that the moratorium on metallic mining violates El Salvador's investment laws and illegally and arbitrarily deprives the gold mining company of its investment in developing a gold mine in northern El Salvador.   The arbitration, which seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in damages against the government is currently awaiting decision from the arbitrators.

The poll also asked respondents about other kinds of environmental damage in the country:
When asked about the principal problems affecting the environment in El Salvador today, the responses showed that deforestation (49.9%), the contamination and scarcity of water (14.1%) and the poor management of trash (13.6%) are the main environmental problems perceived by the respondents. Other phenomena mentioned with less frequency included air contamination, climate change and the contamination of soils by toxic chemicals, among others.

When asked who was most responsible for the damage to the environment, 42.1% of those polled pointed to the citizens themselves of El Salvador, followed by 29.4% who pointed to private enterprises as the most responsible, Government (6.3%), political parties (4.3%) and market sellers (4.2%). Of those polled, 13.7% considered that all of the Salvadorans are equally responsible for environmental destruction.

Concerning the principal causes of environmental destruction in the country, respondents primarily indicated the failure to apply established laws (21.7%), low educational and cultural levels among the citizenry (17.7%) and the irrational exploitation of natural resources (17%).The rest of respondents alluded to weak regulation, lack of information and other factors.
I think that's a pretty accurate assessment of care for the environment in El Salvador.

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